National Overview

Figure 2 indicates Native American, Black, and Latino students, taken together, have just over half of the Opportunity to Learn in the nation’s best-supported, best-performing schools as the nation’s White, non-Latino students. A low-income student, of any race or ethnicity, also has just over half of the Opportunity to Learn of the average White, non-Latino student. As our nation focuses its attention on student achievement and school improvement, half a chance is substantively no chance at all, particularly when we focus on reversing the education disparities that have affected historically disadvantaged groups.
 

 
Figure 2: National Summary
Opportunity to Learn for Disadvantaged Students:  51%
(1)

Disadvantaged Student Group(2) Opportunity to Learn
(compared to White, non-Latino students
Native American 61%        
Asian American(3) 97%        
Black 47%        
Latino 53%        
Low-income (FARL(4)) 53%        

Opportunity for Success

Even within historically disadvantaged groups, the opportunity to learn varies. Figure 3 highlights the percentages of American students, by race, ethnicity and income, enrolled in the top quarter of high schools in each state. Nearly one-third of White, non-Latino students are in those schools, where nearly all students graduate and where nearly all students score well on state tests. Fewer than 20 percent of students from historically disadvantaged groups are enrolled in those well-resourced, high-performing schools.

Figure 3

Native American, Asian American, Black, Latino and low-income students are more likely than White, non-Latino students to be disadvantaged by attending schools where they have little chance of demonstrating academic proficiency, graduating from high school, and attaining the postsecondary credentials that are becoming more and more essential in today’s economy. While only 19 percent of Black students are in well-resourced, highperforming schools, 42 percent are in poorly-resourced, low-performing schools. The picture is similar for Native American, Latino and low-income students. On the other hand, the average White, non-Latino student is twice as likely to be in a well-resourced, high-performing school as in a poorly-resourced, low-performing school.

Figure 4

As Figure 5 indicates, dividing the percentages of Native American, Asian American, Black, Latino and lowincome students in what are often called “drop-out factories”—schools where most students do not graduate and those that do are not educated to high standards—by the percentage of White, non-Latino students in those schools gives us the comparative disadvantage of each group: (Higher numbers are worse: more of a disadvantage)

Figure 5

Group Comparative Disadvantage
Native American students 210%         
Asian American students*** 140%         
Black, non-Latino students 280%         
Latino students 230%         
Low-income students (who may be in any racial/ethnic group) 230%         
Comparison is to all White, non-Latino students 100%         

**Performance for sub-groups of the Asian American populations (Hmong, Cambodian, etc.) varies drastically. Further federal and state disaggregation of data is needed to more accurately speak to performance results of Asian Americans.

Overall, gaps in the Opportunity to Learn resources have effects well beyond our educational institutions and secondary and postsecondary graduation rates. As Figures 6 and 7 display, such gaps have very real consequences for our nation’s economy, health, and society as a whole. By closing the opportunity gap for minority and low-income students, we can realize a very real impact on the education, health and welfare of our nation.

FIGURE 6

Economic Consequences(5)

Total Annual Economic Burden to Taxpayers Because of Inequity: $59.2 billion(6)

Potential Return on School Improvement Investment:
(Differences attributable to high school graduation per annual cohort)
250%
 
National Annual Total Lifetime Health Loss
 
$11.6 billion
 
National Annual Crime-Related Loss
 
$7.6 billion
 
State Tax Losses (Lifetime)
 
$40 billion
 
Annual Lost Lifetime Earnings
(Difference attributable to high school graduation per annual cohort)
$82.2 billion
 
Net Annual Potential Revenue Increase from Equity
(After deducting estimated cost of improving schools)
$36.5 billion

If we make the investments necessary to provide to all students the resources and educational methods that we know make an impact, including access to early childhood education, highly effective teachers, college preparatory curricula and equitable instructional resources, the social and civic benefits for American society will be great. Simply bringing high school graduation rates for disadvantaged students up to those now achieved by the average White, non-Latino student will, for example, more than double the expected college graduation rates for Black, Latino and Native American students. Employment rates will increase as these students complete high school in greater numbers, and will increase further as they complete college. Expected incomes will rise even more markedly, transforming communities. With more education and higher incomes, health risks will decline and longevity increase. Incarceration rates will fall, particularly in the Black community, where currently the lifetime chances of a young adult male without a high school diploma of serving more than two years in prison are 60 percent. And civic participation will increase, given better educated and healthier people in historically disadvantaged communities.


FIGURE 7

Social and Civic Consequences

Changes attributable to educational equalization with highest performing large group:

College Graduation(7) (25 years of age+)
Increase Expected Attributable to Equitable Access
 
  Black, Latino, Native American (total) 115%
 
Employment(8)
Increase Expected Attributable to Equitable Access
 
  With High School Diploma 4%
  Further Increase with Bachelor's Degree 3%
 
Income(9)
Increase Expected Attributable to Equitable Access
 
  With High School Diploma 37%
  Further Increase with Bachelor's Degree 63%
 
Health Risk(10)
Increase Expected Attributable to Equitable Access
 
  Black, non-Latino 23%
  Latino 37%
 
Civic Engagement(11) (National Election Participation)
 
  Increase Expected Attributable to Equitable Access 4%
 
Incarceration(12)
Decrease Expected Attributable to Equitable Access to Education
 
  Black, non-Latino 83%
  Latino 27%

 

 

NOTES

(1) The Schott 50 State Report on the Opportunity to Learn in America, The Schott Foundation for Public Education, May 2009

(2) Total enrollments (2005/6): Native American: 130,968; Asian American: 1,950,425; Black, non-Latino: 5,570,253; Latino: 5,066,273; White, non-Latino: 10,482,662; FARL: 10,260,933.

(3) Performance for sub-groups of the Asian American populations (Hmong, Cambodian, etc.) varies drastically. Further federal and state disaggregation of data is needed to more accurately speak to performance results of Asian Americans.

(4) Students eligible for Free and Reduced Price Lunch. This measure is similar to the percentage of children living in poverty: Native American (32%); Asian American (20%); Black, non-Latino (41%); Latino (34%); White, non-Latino (32%).

(5) Earnings and Revenue: See Levin, Henry. The Costs and Benefits of an Excellent Education for All of America’s Students. Columbia University, January 2007.

(6)Amounts are rounded.

(7) U.S. Census, American Community Survey (ACS), 2006.

(8) ACS.

(9) ACS.

(10) National Survey of Children's Health, Indicator 6.1.

(11)Potential Civic Engagement is represented by national voting rates by educational attainment applied to adult educational attainment of the state. U.S. Census Bureau. Voting and Registration in the Election of November 2004; American Community Survey, Educational Attainment Adult Population. 2004 Voting Turnout Rate from United States Election Project: elections.gmu.edu/Turnout_2004G.html

(12) Bureau of Justice Statistics, Special Report: Education and Correctional Populations, January 2003.

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